Make-Ahead Summer Vegetable Lasagna

Before I jump right into the recipe, I have to tell you that these next several weeks are going to be pretty busy for me. If you’ve been checking out my posts, you know that I’m heading over to Rome and London next week. Yay! I’ve been writing lists and getting organized for the trip. I am seriously neurotic when it comes to packing luggage, and I am a total carry-on-only warrior. I’ve got my travel journal ready and all my TSA approved snacks and travel size organic toiletries. Anyway, since I’ve been planning everything right down to the smallest of details, I realized I’d forgotten one of the most important things to consider. After returning home from a long trip, the last thing you want to think about is grocery shopping and cooking. I needed to come up with a meal that I can take straight from the freezer and pop in the oven as soon as I set down my bags.

Because farmer’s markets and summer CSAs are in full swing, and because I have more summer squash than I know what to do with, I decided to make a Summer vegetable lasagna. Lasagna is one of my favorite meals, y’all, and this recipe is nothing short of amazing. The Béchamel sauce really makes every bite a cosmic experience. The best part is that you can make this ahead of time and then freeze portions for a quick, healthy, and oh so tasty meal when you return home from your own vacay. You must try this!!!

Summer Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

For the vegetable filling:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 lb. (250 g) cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 yellow or green summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
  • 3 jarred roasted red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz./875 g) plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (1 oz./30 g) fresh basil leaves, minced
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the béchamel sauce

  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) whole milk
  • 3 cups (24 oz./750 g) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 lb. (250 g) no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 3/4 lb. (12 oz./375 g) mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

1. Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. To make the filling, in a 5-quart (5-l) Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the bell peppers, tomatoes, basil and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Clean the pot.

3. To make the béchamel sauce, in the same pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer half of the sauce to a bowl. Spread the remaining sauce evenly on the bottom of the pot. In another bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper.

4. Cover the sauce in the pot with a single layer of lasagna noodles, breaking them if needed to fit. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture evenly on top, then one-third of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with one-fourth of the mozzarella. Repeat the layering 2 more times, starting with the noodles. Top with a final layer of noodles and the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella. Cover the pot with aluminum foil and bake until the noodles are tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is browned, about 15 minutes longer. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm. Serves 8 to 10.

***To freeze, cut it into individual portions. Wrap the portions in aluminum foil and when you’re ready to reheat, just pop them in the oven for about 45 minutes at 375°F.

Source: Williams Sonoma

Try This— 3 Ingredient Creamy Avocado Dip

This creamy avocado dip is just 3 ingredients!

You can add an avocado or two to pretty much anything and it’s delicious. I have tested this theory in dozens of recipes, both sweet and savory, and I have yet to be disappointed. Still my greatest avocado triumphs have come in the form of 3-ingredient-or-less recipes. So as I’m preparing my Memorial Day menu, I’ve been fooling around with some simple, yet highly satisfying avocado recipes.  My absolute favorite is this creamy avocado dip from the Kitchn perfect for entertaining. Use it to dip chips, veggies, crackers, or as a condiment on your homemade grilled veggie burgers. It’s a crowd pleaser, y’all, I promise. You must try this!

3 Ingredient Creamy Avocado Dip

Ingredients

Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 medium ripe avocados
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit.
  • Spoon the flesh of the avocados into the bowl of food processor or blender.
  • Add the goat cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Blend until smooth and creamy, 30 to 40 seconds.

Try This— Sweet Potato Hummus

this sweet potato hummus recipe is the perfect Paleo addition to your summer menu!

Since Winter basically refused to end this year and all the farmers’ markets and farm shares are either opening late or decidedly scant because of it, I thought I’d try my hand at hacking my favorite summertime dip. Hummus is a staple in my house. We smear raw veggies with this creamy delicacy all summer long as a healthy snack and sometimes it even winds up replacing a meal all together because we just can’t stop eating it. This recipe comes from the appetizer menu of Miss Ada, a cute little Mediterranean restaurant on Dekalb Ave. a few blocks from where I went to High School (Brooklyn Technical High School). Chef Tomer Blechman brilliantly uses sweet potatoes as a base instead of chickpeas in this recipe, so it’s perfect for anyone on a Paleo diet, or anyone that wants to use their chickpeas for something more productive like these beauty recipes. Best part is that by using sweet potatoes, your adding a healthy dose of complex carbs and fiber, oh and it makes your finished hummus totally Instagrammable. Drop everything… You must try this!!!

Chef Tomer Blechman in the outdoor eating area of Miss Ada 184 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

Sweet Potato Hummus

Ingredients

serves 6 people

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes
  • 5 garlic cloves,
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 1 cup smoked paprika
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp creme fraiche
  • 1 red onion, small diced
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • Baharat spice mix (1 Tbsp each of cinnamon, cardamom, and English pepper)
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a medium pot, boil sweet potatoes until tender.
  • Allow to cool. Add to a food processor and blend with garlic and tahini until smooth.
  • Make the paprika oil: In a medium saucepan over low heat, simmer paprika and canola oil for five minutes. Allow to stand for 20 minutes; strain into a squeeze bottle.
  • In a small bowl, combine creme fraiche and onion. Set aside.
  • On a baking sheet, spread almonds in an even layer. Toss with remaining canola oil and baharat spice mix. Bake for five minutes.
  • Scoop sweet potato mixture onto a plate. Create a nest and place creme fraiche in the middle. Add the almonds, paprika oil, and Aleppo pepper. Garnish with thinly sliced onion and parsley sprigs.
  • Serve with pita or sliced vegetables.

Try This—Homemade Oatmeal Almond Power Bars

These power bars are packed with protein, healthy fats, and carbs giving you a much needed post workout boost, or midday snack. I’ve spent a small fortune on those Kind bars and Quest bars until I finally figured out that I could make these snacks at home with very little effort. Best part: I actually know what’s in them. No guess work, just a simple healthy snack that tastes great and stays fresh in the fridge and the freezer! Winning! You must try this!

Homemade Oatmeal Almond Power Bars

ingredients (makes about 12 bars)

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 5 medjool dates
  • ½ cup cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp. boiling water

Directions

  • Place almonds and oats in food processor (I use my trusty Nutribullet) and blend until you have a coarse crumb.
  • Add cacao powder, cranberries, and dates and blend again.
  • Begin adding the boiling water, a little at a time and continue blending, until the mixture becomes well incorporated and forms a ball.
  • Press the dough into a baking tin lined with wax or parchment paper and place in the fridge for 3-4 hours before slicing into bars.
  • For grab and go storage, wrap each bar in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container.

***Because all of the ingredients have a super long shelf life, you can store them on the counter top for several days, in the fridge for several weeks, and in the freezer for up to 6 months. Trust me when I say you’ll eat them all long before you run into any shelf life issues.

***Each bar contains about 200 calories.

Customize It!

This recipe is delicious, but there are so many ways to customize these energy bars. Check out this neat infographic to get you started!

Rethink Clean: Restore and Maintain Good Bacteria on Your Skin

I’ve never rested my bare face on a subway pole. I have, however, held on to a subway pole at rush hour, used those same hands to swipe and accept a call, then placed that germy screen on my cheek for the duration of a conversation. Joseph Lister is spinning in his grave. Fortunately, the green beauty movement is hip to that. There’s a promising new generation of beauty products that seek to rescue our skin from the tech world and pollution. They’re using ingredients like lipids, adaptogens, ceramides,  and live bacteria (probiotics, yo!) to help strengthen our skin’s natural barrier, so it can function as it should. Instead of stripping away our skin’s natural defense against modern day irritants, product lines like Mother Dirt, are designed to nourish and support the ecosystem of our skin, while still delivering on what we’ve come to expect in our favorite beauty essentials. Here are some must have products from the Mother Dirt collection.

Cleanser

Less than ten ingredients, this entirely plant-based cleanser easily removes dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping, or drying out the skin. It’s suitable for all skin types and is preservative-free.

Moisturizer

This serum is a powerhouse designed to mimic our skin’s natural barrier. Start with a small drop and apply it to dry skin anywhere on your body. A little goes a long way.

Mist

This mist is my favorite! Think of this as the cherry on top of all of your Mother Dirt products. Designed to reduce our dependence on products like moisturizers, makeup, and even deodorant, AO+Mist improves the appearance of skin by replenishing essential bacteria to your skin’s natural barrier.

Shop the Bundle

The Bundle includes the cleanser, the moisturizer, the mist, and Mother Dirt’s shampoo which I didn’t include a description of because I’m having so much success with my 2 ingredient homemade herbal shampoo. If you try the shampoo, you should def tell me how amazing it is in the comments!